In Memory of Oakland City Police Officer Mike Deno

Michael Edward Deno was born on September 18, 1975 to Melvin and Cindy (Ellis) Deno in Oakland City, Indiana. He spent his whole life in Oakland City. Mike was a typical boy, enjoying football, hunting, and working on cars with his Dad and Brother Matt; but he also enjoyed helping his Mom dust while listening to John Denver. He graduated from Wood Memorial High School in 1994. In high school he was a member of the football team and Powers Club and was known for his class pranks and jokes. After high school, Mike entered the workforce and worked at Jasper Engines and Transmissions in Jasper and Carriage House Apartments in Evansville. He then entered into business with his Father and began “Split Rail Auto Sales”, which closed in 1998. He enjoyed hunting, fishing, watching NASCAR races, Kentucky basketball, and playing golf. On October 2, 1994 when Mike and his Dad were on their way to Kentucky to visit Matt, who was in the military, they came upon a horrible accident in which Mike at the age of 19 saved another boy’s life. After that point, he knew that service to his community was the route he wanted to take. Later that year he joined the Oakland City Fire Department. His stepfather, Tom Bonilla was a member and encouraged Mike to join. On September 28, 1996, Mike and his high school sweetheart, Cindy, were married after dating since 1993. Mike was determined to go to College and had enrolled at Vincennes University for Law Enforcement. He had been given the opportunity by Chief of Police Tom Rowe to work as a Reserve Officer and then as a Part Time Officer for the Oakland City Police Department on June 18, 1998. He graduated from Basic Class 99-139 of the Indiana Law Enforcement Academy, in Plainfield, on August 20, 1999 and was later sworn in as a full time officer. He was a member of Princeton Fraternal Order of Police #115. He had begun to accomplish so many things in his life. On Monday, February 28, 2000, Mike was on duty when he initiated a traffic stop on Richard A. Branum, 24, of Winslow, Indiana. He was stopped for having a suspended license. Branum shot him with a .25 caliber handgun, then left the scene and was found about an hour later near Buckskin. He was taken into custody by Gibson County Sheriff’s Deputies and other officers without incident and was found to have drugs taped under his clothing. On December 12, 2000, Branum was sentenced to life in prison without parole for the crime he had committed. Mike died the following day of his injuries at St. Mary’s Hospital in Evansville. The showing was handled by Corn-Colvin Funeral Home in Oakland City on Thursday, March 2, 2000. The funeral was held at Oakland City University – Johnson Center on March 3rd. Almost every flag was flown at half-staff and the town itself shut down during the hours of the funeral out of respect for him. Attendees were asked to park at Wood Memorial High School and were shuttled to the University for the services. More than 2000 attended the funeral, a third of which were officers from all across the United States as well as the Royal Mounted Police. He was laid to rest in Montgomery Cemetery on a cold, wet, and drizzly day. The Michael Edward Deno Memorial Fund was established by his wife, Cindy, with the help of the Gibson County Community Foundation. It was to be used for graduating Seniors at Oakland City University who graduated within the Criminal Justice Field. The Department also retired his badge number, 25-5, in his honor. The Gibson County Fallen Heroes Monument was erected on December 13, 2000 which included his name. It was also etched on the Wall of Remembrance in Washington, D.C. in May of 2001 and the Indiana Law Enforcement and Firefighters Memorial on June 6, 2001. The Oakland City Fallen Heroes monument was dedicated in May of 2003 and placed on the front lawn of the Oakland City Fire Department. Mike’s love for life, family, and friends will always be remembered. He was known for being the life of the party and the one who always had the last laugh. He enjoyed the holidays and was such a big kid. He wanted to make a difference in the way things were in his town; he wanted things to be better for everyone. He loved kids and showed it every time he was around his nieces and nephews; he spoiled each of them every chance he had. This small town boy touched the lives of so many people, many that haven’t even realized it yet. He is sadly missed by all that knew and loved him and will never be forgotten.